Fighting Socialism, Part Two

In Part One we were supportive of Catherine Rampell’s thesis that using socialism as a scare word is lazy.  We need to fight socialism but we need to do it better.  Catherine gives us two reasons that we need to do a better job a fighting socialism.  First, folks don’t understand it:

The most common answer, volunteered by about a quarter of respondents, was that it had something to do with “equality” — “equal standing for everybody, all equal in rights, equal in distribution,” something to that effect. Smaller percentages mentioned communism, government control of utilities or even “talking to people, being social, social media, getting along with people.”

That quote is about as scary as information gets.  The related second reason, is because they don’t understand it they (and especially young people) think it is OK or even a good idea:

A majority of adults under age 30 already view the term “socialism” positively; about 40 percent of those ages 30 to 49 say the same.

By now you should be really worried.  We think that two of Catherine’s examples point that out.  One relates to Ronald Reagan and Medicare.  It ties nicely into how we work so hard at ignoring the entitlement and debt problem in the US:

Over the past 60 years — since Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare would doom the country to the s-word — the GOP has turned into the boy who cried socialism.

Socialism, as Catherine says, is about controlling the means of production.  We are not sure that reasonable people can disagree that Medicare has led to government control over the means of medical production.  In accounting we worry about control because we need to decide what companies should be consolidated as one unit for financial reporting purposes.  The old rule for consolidation were simple so we are going to stick with them: over 50 percent must consolidate, 20 to 50 percent it depends, and under 20 percent it is unlikely.  What it depends on for 20 to 50 percent is things like the next biggest stockholder.  If MWG owns 49 percent and the next biggest shareholder is 1 percent then it is likely that MWG controls that entity.

Here (there is other stuff too so read on) is a discussion of how much of the national health expenditure comes from the government.  Our point is that the government is such a large percentage compared to anyone and everyone else that they control medical delivery.  A small example of this is that MWG has to answer the Medicare questions on every visit to the clinic.

Ronald was right.  Medicare socialized medicine and now paying for Medicare is the biggest problem our republic faces. And Ronald gets part of the blame because in his remarkable presidency did many things including helping to reform Social Security (it still needs more reform but without it we would have even bigger problems) but did not reform Medicare when he clearly understood the problem.

The other problem is when Catherine says this:

The real debate Americans are having — including those on the far left trying to gain greater control of the Democratic Party — is about how regulated markets should be and how to make the rules fairer. No one in the 2020 race, not even relative outlier and self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. [Act Naturally], is proposing that we recreate the Great Leap Forward.

We don’t know if Act Naturally is an outlier.  We know that he is one of the many candidates for the Democrat nomination for president that supports the Green New Deal (GND) although most support it by voting present.  We think know she knows about the NGD because she has written about it:

The resolution calls for net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 — though the International Panel on Climate Change proposes getting there by 2050, itself a herculean task. The resolution offers little guidance about how to achieve this — carbon tax? cap and trade? what of nuclear energy? — perhaps because the authors knew such choices would divide progressive constituencies.

The documents beyond the resolution answer most of her questions.  Here is part of the answer:

End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies. End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee/tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.” [Emphasis added]

The answer to Catherine’s query on nuclear energy seems especially clear.  Let’s compare it to the Great Leap Forward:

The Great Leap Forward (Chinese大跃进pinyinDà Yuèjìn) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was an economic and social campaign by the Communist Party of China (CPC) from 1958 to 1962. The campaign was led by Chairman Mao Zedong and aimed to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization. These policies proved to lead to an exponential social and economic disaster, but these failures were hidden by widespread exaggeration and deceitful reports.

Neither idea seems like a good one but we are hard pressed to say that the Great Leap Forward is a worse idea that GND.  In fact, they both look to transform an economy in a very short period of time.  One required coercion.  The other will require even more coercion if it comes to be.  It will be interesting when the government comes to confiscate cars, trucks, power boats, power mowers, ATVs, and so on.  The folks that own them also tend to own guns.

Sidebar: We brought up eminent domain in part one.  We do not have the legal expertise to have much of an opinion but we wonder if the government will have to pay for all of the stuff they propose taking.  We put this in a sidebar because neither outcome makes GND a good idea.  It is, as they say when belittling our profession, academic.  End Sidebar.

We agree with Catherine on the need to be more specific in combating socialism.  We seem to disagree on need to combat it.  We think we need to address the overall problems and the problems of specific proposals.  It is important to label the former as socialism but not the latter.

Fighting Socialism, Part One

Socialism is a really bad idea as shown currently by Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and many other examples through history.  Yet folks are often sloppy in the battle over socialism.  Catherine Rampell has a thoughtful article on the difficulties of fighting socialism.  We are not sure if she wants to fight socialism or not but we like her thoughtfulness in any case.

Catherine is talking about a specific problem of labels.  Some folks, and she specifically identifies The Donald, use socialism as a term to describe proposals they don’t like.  Catherine doesn’t make the connection but lots of folks use fascist to describe other folks they don’t like.

To be fair, the Media Darling (MD) and Act Naturally describe themselves as socialists. Although they may add a modifier (countries often add more than one) to socialism they are subject to the criticisms of the failure of socialism.  They should be asked to explain why they support socialism despite its numerous and continuing failures.

Catherine makes the point that capitalism and socialism are not a useful binary to describe countries.  She says “all modern economies” are mixed:

That includes the United States. We have public schools, public roads, subsidized health care for the elderly and other forms of social insurance. Yet we also have private property, and the government does not control the means of production [except as above]— which is, you know, actually how socialism is defined.

Developed economies, to use a different term, are fairly similar overall although there are big differences in the details.  The Heritage Foundation Index of economic freedom will tell you that the US and Denmark have almost the exact same degree of economic freedom, 76.8 versus 76.7 in 2019.  It will also tell you that there are 22 “repressed” economies with Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea ending the list.  We are not sure where Catherine is drawing the line.

Sidebar: Catherine’s “all modern economies” is a great term.  We wish we had of thought of it.  Catherine is able to exclude some where from three to a quarter to a half of the world’s countries with one ambiguous phrase.  End Sidebar.

So socialism fails but we often accept a reduction of economic freedom in return for something else.  Eminent Domain would be an example that most people would support but debate the extent of (see Kelo).

Although socialism is a bad idea, Catherine is right that calling something socialism is lazy and not a real criticism.  It is, as we said earlier, like calling somebody a fascist.  It is saying I don’t like you or your idea but I can’t articulate exactly why.

We are with Catherine on her main point of articulating the issues.  Calling an idea socialistic is lazy.  You need to explain why it is a bad idea.  On the other hand, folks that call themselves socialists are subject to the deserved criticisms of socialism.  In the next post we will continue with some specifics from Catherine’s article.

Weekday Skiing

We have known that weekday skiing is a great thing for a long time.  Over a half a century ago we skipped school and went to Killington for a day.  It was a big place then but much smaller than it is today.  In that long ago day we were greeted by 14 inches of new powder and had a day we still remember.

We recently went back to Killington for a Sunday night through Friday stay.  It got off to a terrible start when our flight was delayed and we spent Sunday night in Detroit rather than Vermont.  The we spent Monday driving from Boston to Killington rather than skiing.  We stayed in a studio at the Grand.  Our ski pass was for four of five days so we skied four in a row.

Sidebar: We tend towards being frugal but there are things that we think are worth it. Every traveler has to decide when to splurge and when to be frugal.  Midweek and March is frugal for skiing.  The Grand isn’t but our old bodies like the short walk to the slopes and the pool and jacuzzi after the slopes.  We made our own dinner in the studio some nights and ate elegantly at Preston’s in The Grand other nights.  We have moved on from apres ski at the Wobbly Barn.  Plan your trip for what you want not what somebody else wants.  End Sidebar.

One thing that has really changed over the past half century in skiing the East is grooming.  Killington, like many other places, does a great job of repairing the mountain every night.  Do check their website to see what trails have been groomed.  Another reason it is great to ski weekdays is that there are fewer skiers.  Fewer skiers means that the grooming holds up all day while it often doesn’t on the weekend.  It also makes for wide open trails.

We have three tips.  First, pick a sunny day and have lunch at the Peak Lodge right by the top of the K-1 Gondola.  It is a great view.  If you want to impress somebody you can tell them that the building used to be the end of the third stage of the Skyeship Gondola.  You can still see the path from the top of Skye Peak to Peak Lodge.  Unfortunately, the Ledgewood Yurt isn’t open on weekdays.  If you stay through the weekend be sure to try it.

Second, watch the weather and the elevation but if you go in March it is usually cold at night and warm enough to get mushy in places in the day.  Killington has over 3000 feet of vertical.  So if you want to take the blue/green cruise down to Route 4 and check out the real estate, it is usually best in the morning.  Later in the day you might want to go up the mountain to avoid the mashed potatoes.  Our recommendations are the soon-to-be-replaced North Ridge Triple, mostly intermediate, and the Canyon Quad, single and double diamonds. Most days they escape the wind.  The new Snowdon six-pack is the most comfortable ride on the planet but we don’t like the terrain it serves as much.

Third, where should you ski?  Of course it is personal but here are our favorites.  All the trails from the soon-to-be-replaced North Ridge Triple.  It is short but it is even better when Tyler is there loading with his boom box.  Cruise Control is a great intermediate run you can ski off of Stage 2 of the Skyeship.  The lower part of the East Fall is our old flame.  We loved her and used to spend all day with her but she has moved on to younger men.  Now we try to ski her once a day.

Go skiing weekdays in March.  Killington is a great choice but you may have another favorite.  Plan what is right for you but it is cheaper, less crowded, and more fun.


Thanks Gronk!

Rob Gronkowski, the great Patriot tight end, has retired from football at age 29.  Over at NFL they are debating if he is the tight end GOAT.  We are convinced that he should be elected to football Hall of Fame on the first ballot and that is enough for us.

He might be the GOAT athlete for financial awareness.  He has invested all of his contract earnings while living off endorsements and such.  Here is what Money has to say comparing his financial acumen to others:

In other words, Rob Gronkowski is sitting on a fortune worth tens of millions of dollars, and his wealth is growing all the time. This is particularly exceptional for someone in the NFL, where careers tend to last only a few years — and bankruptcies are notoriously common among retired players.


Media Deja Vu

We are back from vacation.  We will tell you about the trip later but the hot topic is the Mueller Report and its exoneration of The Donald.  Lots of other folks have weighed in on the report.  Our value added is being in a pub when one of the news shows was reading the report.

It was a deja vu moment because we had a similar moment in an airport in Europe.  It doesn’t matter where in Europe but if you want a guess it was Poland.  One of the countries, again a guess would be Ireland, had made the “wrong” vote as far as the media was concerned.  We couldn’t understand the language but the body language of everyone in the press room made it clear that a mistake had been made.

The report on The Donald was similar.  We could see his picture and hear the voice going over the report but the words were indistinct making it similar to the earlier event.  We only saw one person but the tone of the voice was unmistakable.  How could have this happened?  Kyle Smith at NRO gives us more details on political problems with the media.  We don’t fully share Kyle’s joy that we can ignore the media because we really need a responsible media. But we agree we don’t have one now.

Good News At NRO

The Media Darling (MD) has shown up at MWG but we have ignored her buddies from Minnesota and Michigan.  They are not interesting enough to spend much time worrying about.  They represent the trend in in elective office that we have seen with the 44th and 45th presidents.  We elect amateurs and get amateurish behavior.  It should not be a surprise.  The surprise is that The Donald has actually been part of a number of accomplishments.

Sarah Schütte (she didn’t put an umlaut but the word processor wants one) is a wonderful counter voice to the behavior we have seen more and more of recently.  Her position at NRO isn’t entirely clear but she is new there (her first listing 10/13/18) and has a wonderful post in The Corner titled “A Homeschooler Walks Into A Bar….”It gives us hope for the next generation.  Sarah has the heart of a lion as indicated by her list of accomplishments but she knows her shortcomings as well.  Here is how she ties it up:

Yes, I believe I have a voice and opinions. But my voice is weak in many areas and my opinions still need structure to make them eloquent. So instead, I listen. I go to meetings, read articles, and edit pieces. I attend talks on confusing topics, take notes on the podcast conversations, and try to muster up the courage to ask questions. I do this not because I think my ideas are unimportant or don’t deserve a voice, but because I know they require more formation.

So for now I sit quietly, drinking in the sights, sounds, and beer, just learning.

And I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

Sarah is a person worth listening to, reading, and, perhaps, enjoying a drink with.  We wish her well.

American Players Theatre 2019 Season

It is American Players Theatre’s (APT) 40th anniversary this year.  You should visit APT and Spring Green, Wisconsin this summer.  It has terrific actors in great plays in a lovely setting.  Tickets are now on sale for returning patrons.

If you haven’t been there then you should know that there are two theaters.   The Hill is a beautiful outdoor theatre on, no surprise, the top of a hill.  Don’t worry the seats are very nice and the theatre has recently been redone.  Transportation is available for those who can’t or don’t want to walk up the hill.  We recommend the walk.  Touchstone is a smaller indoor theatre that is a great place to watch an intimate play and get out of the summer sun.  There are many picnic tables to have a meal before or after the show.  Check the APT schedule as they have some outside organizations bring in food on certain days.

There is other entertainment in the area as well.  You can go all cultural and add Frank Lloyd Wright’s Talliesin.  Or you can try more popular culture and hit the House on the Rock.  The affiliated House on the Rock resort has a nice golf course and is across the street from APT and a few miles from the actual House on the Rock.  You can laze around the Wisconsin River or make a short drive and see the Great River and its road.  You can learn how to pronounce Mazomanie.  While you are there you should eat at the Old Feed Mill.  There are lots of hotels and places to camp but don’t wait until the last minute to make reservations.  As we said, APT has terrific actors in great plays in a lovely setting.  Make the trip.